Dear Ms. Parker-Pope,
While browsing nytimes.com I came across your article “Harry Potter and the Pint of Liquid Courage”, and with such an interesting title I couldn’t help but read. However, instead of feeling like I learned something, I found myself once again laughing at the ignorance and utter lack of cultural exposure in Americans.
In your description of the new HP movie, it seems like the whole thing takes place in a bar, with Hogwarts students running wild like it’s spring break in Cancun. You wrote, “In scene after scene, the young wizards and their adult professors are seen sipping, gulping and pouring various forms of alcohol to calm their nerves, fortify their courage or comfort their sorrows.” What you failed to emphasize was that out of the two hours and fifty-five minutes of the movie, there was probably a total of five minutes of footage displaying alcohol, and the only people who were visibly drunk were adults, and legally allowed to get as drunk as they wanted to.
Don’t get me wrong- we don’t want to encourage little kids to do body shots and beer bongs- but you have made a mountain out of a mole hill. The scenes you have described are grossly exaggerated, and in pointing them out you have made them much more important to the plot than, well, the actual plot.
Let’s take a look at what you have a problem with, and why my intelligence and nerd knowledge proves you wrong.
Hermione knows the best way to Ron’s heart is a wet t-shirt contest
In one scene Hermione is drinking butterbeer & gets a sort of milk moustache. Yes, there were some drunk people in that pub, but it wasn’t the HP trio. You say that Hermione is drunk because she has foam on her lip. What you saw as the equivalent to a game of quarters was actually a subtle reference to an earlier scene where Hermione has toothpaste on her lip and Ron points it out. In this second occurrence she is obviously embarrassed, and the scene displays a softer side of Hermione, a side that can be sensitive about looking poised in front of the boy she likes. Yeah, she puts her arms around Harry and Ron as they’re walking back from the pub, but could it possibly be that instead of being tipsy, she just had a great day of fun and was expressing that? Does affection between friends have to be alcohol-induced?
My other problem with your objections to this scene is that a pub is not the same as a bar. In England, pubs are the local gathering place, where everyone of all ages hangs out and the community can come together. Just because the closest thing you have to that in the suburbs is the parking lot at your kid’s soccer practice doesn’t mean you’re allowed to bestow such a harsh judgement. If you were actually paying attention to that scene, you would have noticed that when encountered with a drunken Professor Slughorn, Hermione and her friends were obviously annoyed by his behavior, particularly when he spills beer on her.
The suburban pub
Last, but not least, in your article you wrote that “it’s never been entirely clear whether butterbeer is alcoholic”, and this is really not true. In chapter twenty-eight of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry finds the house elf Winky drunk, and after hearing from Dobby that she is going through six bottles a day, he says “Well, it’s not strong, that stuff.” Dobby explains that it’s strong for a house elf, but that proves butterbeer is not strong enough to get a person drunk, even with six bottles a day, much less one cup.
That fact alone kills your argument for every other scene where the Hogwarts students drink. But what about the scene where Professor Slughorn opens a bottle of mead for Ron after he is given the antidote for a very strong love potion, or the scene where Hagrid and Slughorn drink until Hagrid passes out? There’s a key factor in each of these scenes, and that is Slughorn.
While he’s not an evil character, Slughorn’s not portrayed as a role model either. This is a man who is shown to live in luxury that he has acquired by picking particularly well-connected or famous students to be in his “Slug Club”, while ignoring other students who might be just as worthy to receive the special attention. This is the man who Harry has to acquire that coveted memory of Voldemort from, who looks solely for ways to live comfortably, even if it means doing things a little bit illegally. This is extremely obvious in the book, and it’s not glossed over in the movie.
Learning potions, doing shots
And Hagrid? Well, we know from the other movies and books that Hagrid likes a pint. He’s made mistakes in the past by passing on information when he’s had too much to drink, and he’s paid the consequences for that behavior. Still, if the man wants to drink too much after his best acromantula friend has died, let him do it. If your kids want to drink after seeing that scene, tell them that when they become half-giant they can get drunk too. Besides, Harry doesn’t touch a drop of alcohol in that scene. It explains in the book that he takes advantage of Slughorn’s intoxication and keeps a clear head, and by avoiding the alcohol he finally gets the coveted memory that directs the rest of the plot, and even the rest of the series.
So Ms. Parker-Pope, go head and flash your little studies that are blatantly reluctant to include Master P in their findings. In the end you have nothing but blind ignorance to back you up. If you had actually read the novels with your children instead of taking the easy way out and planting them in front of a movie screen, you’d know that this whole article you wrote was worthless and ridiculous. I hope that my extensive knowledge of the Harry Potter books and movies has educated you enough to understand that hey, maybe you need to chill out, drink a beer, and rethink your hysterics. Harry Potter is a beautiful, complex story about the battle between good and evil, and that should be left alone for the rest of us to enjoy.
Grace, the McJAWN Nerd and HP Enthusiast
x-posted to McJAWN